Anger – no, fury – was my first reaction to news of the rampage at Fort Hood last week. Thirteen dead and thirty wounded is tragic enough. But how could the alleged murderer, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, have gone undetected on an American military base for so long?
He was American-born but identified himself as Palestinian. He became a psychiatrist at military expense but was chastised for preaching Islam to his patients. He was a devout Muslim who called the war on terror “a war on Islam.” He reportedly suggested that “maybe people should strap bombs on themselves and go to Times Square.”
How could such a man not have set off alarms among his fellow officers and superiors?
And then I remembered having a similar feeling after delivering a speech to 50 soldiers at the U.S. Department of the Army Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. This premier language school, founded during World War II to teach Japanese to U.S. soldiers, today teaches over 40 languages – including Arabic, Pashto, Persian, Korean Chinese, Russian and Hebrew – to some 6,000 military recruits.
A few years ago I made a presentation, in Hebrew, of the MATCKH (Mothers Against Teaching Children to Kill and Hate) film I’d produced to the Hebrew students at the Institute. They were almost all unfamiliar with the fundamentalist Islamic educational system that endangers America, Israel and the entire Western world by indoctrinating children to hate and kill “infidels.”
I remember my shock that 20th century U.S. soldiers knew all about the dangers of Nazism, Fascism, and Communism but these 21st century soldiers seemed to know almost nothing about their present-day enemy.
I presume that soldiers deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan pick up knowledge of radical Islam once they arrive in the Middle East. Dead soldiers, roadside bombs, and suicide attacks at checkpoints must surely serve as a quick crash course on the dangerous people around them.
But these soldiers – being trained in a Middle Eastern language and set eventually to utilize their knowledge in service of their country – were totally ignorant of radical Islam’s 21st century jihad against the West.
I stared at blank faces as I informed them of Mickey Mouse- and Sesame Street-like programs run by the Palestinian Authority that glorify suicide bombers and of radical Islamic preachers – in the U.S. – who call for America’s “death.”
Were these soldiers to meet a devout Muslim who spoke of the Western world’s evils, hardly any red flags would pop up in their minds. They would likely walk away, blissfully and dangerously unaware of the potential threat they had just met. They would probably be as ignorant and clueless as most of their counterparts at Fort Hood.
This ignorance is criminal; it is total negligence on the army’s part. How can the American military leave our soldiers so unprepared to deal with the enemy? How can it deprive our soldiers of the tools to recognize radical “sleeper” Muslims in the U.S. who want nothing more than to destroy this country and its ideals?
In 2003, Hasan Akbar, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division, killed two fellows soldiers at an army base in Kuwait, and now Hasan kills 13 on American soil shouting “Allahu Akbar” before shooting his unarmed comrades-in-arms. What will it take for the army to wake up and empower its soldiers with the knowledge they need to protect themselves?
Unfortunately, part of the problem is the same old political correctness that refuses to recognize that peoples and religions are different from one another and that some can actually be very dangerous.
A former liberal myself, I recognize this tendency not to differentiate between peoples. Living in Israel in 1967, I heard, in the weeks and days leading up to the war, Jordanian radio blasting, “We will drive you Zionist dogs into the sea” on my transistor radio. I remember reports of the IDF’s chief rabbi, Shlomo Goren, scouting the country’s parks for a suitable space to bury the 10,000 Israeli fatalities expected during the war’s opening days.
And then Israel annihilated the Egyptian air force on the ground. General Gur announced, “The Temple Mount is in our hands.” The country was elated. But what did I, a liberal at the time, do? I rushed to promote Bethlehem’s mother of pearl and olive wood exports for Elias Freij (he subsequently became Bethlehem’s mayor).